Mill Creek Musings: The Wrong Road (1937)

Jimmy (Richard Cromwell) and Ruth (Helen Mack) had dreams of a great life together when they were in college, but things haven’t turned out quite as they expected. To top off a string of disappointments, Jimmy has now lost his job.

The two decide to rob the bank where Jimmy has been working. They’ll steal $100,000, hide the money somewhere only they can find it, turn themselves in, serve their sentences and dig the money up when they get released.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Everything is going as planned. Prison is an unhappy place, but they’re making it through, and they’ll soon be reunited.

All hell breaks loose when Jimmy and Ruth are paroled, though. On their search to find their money, the pair are trailed by Jimmy’s angry old cellmate and an insurance investigator who want to get their hands on the money just as much as Jimmy and Ruth do.

James Cruze (The Great Gabbo) directs 1937’s The Wrong Road. The screenplay for this crime drama was written by Gordon Rigby (The Millerson Case) and Eric Taylor (The Ghost of Frankenstein).

The print is so worn that Helen Mack looks like a ghost! (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
The print is so worn that Helen Mack looks like a ghost! (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Let me begin by warning you of the poor visual quality of this film as it appears in the Mill Creek 50 Dark Crimes set. It makes me sad to see the film so poorly-preserved, even if it is a minor crime drama. It’s one of the poorest I’ve seen in the Mill Creek sets in terms of visual quality, though it fares slightly better when analyzed as a part of the public domain as a whole. It appears to have been transferred from a very worn VHS tape.

If you can get past the washed-out and distorted look of the print, what you’ll get from The Wrong Road is a story that’s more than a little bit ridiculous. The fact that Jimmy and Ruth thought they could spend a couple of cheery years in prison and then simply return home and gather up their cash falls far out of the realm of believability. This kind of makes the film fun to watch, though. It may not be plausible, but it is a different plan than we usually see in B-level crime dramas.

But a little bit of fun and a somewhat-unique plot don’t make a great film. The Wrong Road has some pacing problems. When the first half went by with little excitement, I expected that all of the action was being saved for the second half, but that just wasn’t true. Even with all of the complications that ensue after the two are released from prison, the level of excitement is never high.

Even when the print isn't quite so washed out, it's far from well-preserved. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Even when the print isn’t quite so washed out, it’s far from well-preserved. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Despite the uniqueness the premise has there aren’t many surprises here, and the ending goes for the corn with after school special-esque redemption for the couple. The Wrong Road is just a decent little flick — nowhere near great, but enjoyable enough for a quick watch. (It runs at only about 53 minutes in the Mill Creek print.) The score: 2.5/5

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